Big Entry. Victory Goes to Twin-Cam Sunbeam
This year’s Vintage Sports Car Club’s Measham Rally attracted the excellent entry of 83 cars, of which 29 were vintage vehicles, seven were ”post.-vintage thoroughbreds,” and 47 were visitors’ cars. The visitors’ cars included a Standard Vanguard, a Sunbeam-Talbot, a Morgan Plus Four, lots of M.G.s, a Ford Prefect, Austin A90, a large Humber saloon, an XK120 coupé with knock-off wire wheels and extra louvres in its bonnet, but a single exhaust pipe, Sunbeam Alpine, and even a Dellow. The club defies superstition, for D. A. Thirlby’s Frazer-Nash bore No. 13!
At that hotel on the remarkable hill-crest, the “Longmynd” at Church Stretton, Salop, weirdly-garbed men and women contrasted sharply with the feminine charm of the lady officials on duty there, as competitors and marshals assembled for “briefing.” The vintage cars assembled made a brave array. There was R. W. Fitzwilliam’s beautiful blue 2.3 Le Mans Alfa-Romeo, he and his passenger with their heads encased in strange bags the better to combat the furies of nature. Sinclair had a 1930 1 3/4-litre Alfa-Romeo coupé, two open O.M.s were present, and 12/50 “Alvi” were there in numbers, from staid touring versions to throaty squirts models.
At 9 p.m. the first competitor moved off down the steep, rough road onto A49. We followed M. Vaughan’s 1925 14/40 Delage boat-bodied tourer for some miles and were intrigued to find that it held an easy 60 m.p.h. and went, round corners rather faster than we, in the warmth and comfort of a Standard Vanguard, cared to go.
To digress for a moment. On the journey to the start we had made a mild detour in Hereford to visit an early Standard light car which in 1931 retired from the active life to the spacious barn it now occupies, after which we had hurried on to Ludlow to dine very satisfyingly, if rather expensively, at the Feathers Hotel, which dates back to 1521 and the dining-room of which is spotless and bright with gleaming brass.
From there, we estimated, it was but half-an-hour’s run to the start. Alas, we had ahead of its the father and mother of all road detours, which about doubled the mileage. Coming back we found one turn of this detour either not marked at all, or badly marked, so that we became temporarily lost. Consequently the Vanguard arrived at the hill-test, where cars had to re-start on a 1-in-4 gradient and were timed round a left-hand bend and up a long haul to the summit, with the event well in progress. We could not get sufficient wheel-grip to reverse uphill and the lane ahead of us was blocked by about 60 vehicles. Fortunately the Vanguard obligingly ran up the grass verge, leaving ample room for the rally to proceed, and as the scoring-marshal found its bright rear illuminations useful in his work we were soon forgiven.
Considering the nature of the gradient most of the cars, vintage and modern alike, performed very well indeed. Certainly Arthur Jeddere Fisher’s Lancia Lambda saloon had to be pushed all the way up, and he was fearful for the temperature of its clutch lining, while. C. J. C. Larkin’s 1935 Aston Martin saloon just wouldn’t look at the gradient. One 4 1/2-1itre Bentley elected not to attempt the re-start and a Ford Consul came to rest, while a modern Riley saloon had a second go at re-starting. But on the whole the cars made light work of what looked a formidable task, and M. W. Blackburn even re-appeared for a second ascent, his open 1930 Alvis Silver Eagle climbing impeccably on both occasions. The Italian cars mostly climbed slowly on high-ratio axles and one 12/50 Alvis got up, but was only just perceptibly moving at the summit. An old Rolls-Royce Twenty had no trouble at all, and an old Ford Prefect got up splendidly. The Dellow driver got rather excited. A Ford Zodiac with ballast in its boot had no trouble.
From here the competitors took a difficult and lengthy route to a strict time schedule along roads described by one driver as “interesting.” We made for the compulsory one-hour stop at Ternhill, which involved crossing a deserted Wolverhampton at 1.30 a.m. Never at our best at this hour, we found zebra-crossing lights which blinked, not in unison but in sequence, a thought disturbing. At the café at Ternhill John Vessey arrived in his immaculate Lancia Lambda tourer to take efficient charge of the control, and G. G. McDonald, on whose capable shoulders much responsibility rested due to the unavoidable absence of the clerk of the course J. W. Rowley, came in his Bentley to see that all was well, before setting off to look at the remaining check-points on the 80 miles of route still to be covered.
It was soon evident that the event was proving difficult, for competitors generally were very overdue, although the night, save for occasional dampness, was fine, if cold, and the threat of snow, ice, fog and torrential rain had not, fortunately, materialised.
First to arrive. was Peter Binns in his O.M., but he was not optimistic about his chances. Second to arrive, at high speed, sliding sideways to a standstill, was P. W. McNaughton in his 1926 twin-cam 3-litre Sunbeam disguised as a modern “special.” O. H. Wilson-Spratt retired his beautiful little 1939 aerodynamic Fiat 1,100 saloon (FLY 1, re-registered) with a blown gasket, although he appeared later at the finish. T. H. Hesketh also decided to retire his 1928 12/50 Alvis saloon, and some cars didn’t get as far as this. Stories began to circulate in the warm café. Unfortunately R. H. Stretton’s beautiful 1926 12/50 Alvis had failed to take a corner and, jumping a bridge, had overturned in a field, suffering considerable damage and its driver a broken collar-bone. A. J. Fisher, already late, stopped to help and J. R. F. Boulton’s competing Triumph Renown saloon was pressed into service as an ambulance, to the detriment of his schedule. While all the excitement was at its height M. W. Bendell dropped his Ford Ten Special over the same bridge but without injury. We heard, too, of how another rally altogether became mixed with the Measham one, so that a “pirate” competitor drove up to a V.S.C.C. check-point and rendered a route-book none of the marshals could understand. A V.S.C.C. competitor also paused at a cross-roads to check his position when another car drew up alongside. “I’m lost, too, can we compare notes?” inquired its driver. But when route cards were compared they were found to be entirely different — an unnerving happening for both parties at 3 a.m.! The R.A.C. seems justified in saying that the National Fixture List is very full!! There. was also the young lady who threw herself from a Frazer-Nash during the hill-test, convinced, from the smoking clutch, that the car was on fire.
Non-competitor Murray-Austin arrived at the check in a very handsome Bentley two-seater ere McNaughton, with an exhaust song like that of a Formula G.P. car, resumed his night drive.
At Measham, where Mr. G. A. Hill, of the Measham Motor Sales Organisation, kindly allows the cars to check in and undertake the final frolics, Felix Day, secretary of the meeting, dispensed hospitality and the Measham Motor Sales restaurant a very good breakfast, courteously served.
On arrival — and only about 40 of the 83 entrants did arrive! – cars were checked for condition and first undertook an acceleration and braking test, which, we think to the V.S.C.C.’s discredit, included, halfway along the course, that potential transmission breaker, a quick dart backwards before resuming forward progression. However, nothing broke!
B. Day’s Austin A40 squealed its brakes but was well driven. H. M. Sinclair took it gently in the Alfa-Romeo coupé. R. C. Bathos’ Riley Nine tourer exuded much exhaust crackle, while Dr. W. G. Toole handled his oddly-bodied Bristol neatly, his lady passenger obviously very keen. H. W. Whitehouse’s Austin A40, watched critically by vintage fanatics, was noticed to dip its nose on braking and to judder its back axle on acceleration, and J. T. Bedson lost time fumbling for reverse cog in his Triumph Special, the sidelamps of which were still alight. H. E. Hardman and his passenger quickly furled the hood of their M.G., which performed well, and J. L. Shaw in a well-known 1 1/4-litre M.G. rally saloon, treated us to fireworks display. An Alvis Silver Eagle “beetle-back” two-seater came in with the near-side front and off-side rear wings roped on! After G. N. S. Davies had parked his 1925 Alvis tourer the bonnet, radiator and mascot were neatly shrouded in a cover bearing a big hare mascot.
After breakfast the competitors took two more tests. One was a matter of driving against the watch in an arc between a lane of slender pylons without knocking them down, and in the other the cars were driven as fast as possible round a sales-room, stopping after the first circuit astride a line (which, naturally, some overshot), whereupon driver and passenger had to make a circuit of the vehicle before resuming the timed circuit. In the former test Jeddere Fisher’s excellent drive brought forth claps and McNaughton and Binns did splendidly, while many of the open cars hit many pylons, M.G.s -and the Dellow included. The second test wasn’t as amusing us we expected, the cars’ occupants mostly tripping blithely round them like ballet dancers, although there were girls in winter sports attire who didn’t run like athletes and men who collided with one another and the cars’ doors. J. L. Shaw had small respect for his M.G.’s gearbox.
On a dais from which £3,000 Rolls-Royces have no doubt been knocked down, Cecil Clutton, in the absence of President Kent Karslake, thanked Mr. Hill. of the Measham Motor Sales Organisation, for his hospitality and paid warm tribute to the competitors. He was glad, he said, to see that the Measham Rally had this year been won by a vintage car, for McNaughton assured him his car was a 1926 Sunbeam, although he (Clutton) had sometimes mistaken it for the B.R.M. Although so large a proportion of competitors had failed to finish. Clutton felt sure this would in no way deter them next year. He said he had learned a good deal about Standard suspension from watching H. L. Hall’s Vanguard in the tests. Mr. Hill concluded with a few words and Mr. Day expeditiously issued us with the provisional results, Secretary Tim Carson taking the handsome Measham Cup away in his Citroën until final results were issued. Clutton departed in his well-wrapped-up Citroën Six, and non-competing vintage cars such as Woodcock’s smart 14/40 Humber, a San Sebastian Salmson and a Brescia Bugatti joined the mud-stained rally cars for the journey home. We likewise, finding food at last at the Bon Café, in Banbury.
The Measham Rally ranks as an important event amongst club winter fixtures and, very well organised by the Midland Region of the V.S.C.C., enables this influential club to return some of the invitations extended to it by non-vintage organisations (hence the visitors’ class) besides providing an excellent long-distance rally for the older machines. — W. B.
1st: P. W. McNaughton (1926 Sunbeam), 490 points. — Measham Challenge Trophy; 1st, Vintage.
2nd: A. L. Yarranton (1952 Morgan Plus Four), 489 points. — Silver Cup; 1st, All-corners.
3rd: P. J. Binns (1927 O.M.). 473 1/2 points. — Jeddere Fisher Trophy; 2nd. Vintage.
4th: H. L. Hall (1952 Standard Vanguard), 466 1/2 points; 1st. Visitors.
5th: J. L. Shaw (1953 1 1/4-litre M.G.), 466 points; 2nd, Visitors.
6th: B. Day (1952 Austin A40), 453 points; 3rd, Visitors.
7th: K. J. Whitehead (1925 Bentley), 430 points; 3rd, Vintage.
8th: D. P. Harris (1934 Frazer-Nash), 348 points; 1st, Post-Vintage Thoroughbred.
9th: H. M. Sinclair (1930 Alfa-Romeo). 135 paints: 4th. Vintage.
Best non-award winner in tests: H. E. Hardman (M.G.)
Best Frazer-Nash: D. P. Harris.